As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) constantly strives to rewrite the Taiwan narrative, it is important to regularly update and correct the stereotypes that the PRC tries to foist on Taiwan and the world.
A primary stereotype is that Taiwan has always been a part of China and its corollary that Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial. Both are false.
Taiwan has always been a part of the vast Austronesian empire, which stretched from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east and from Taiwan in the north to New Zealand in the south. That part of Taiwan’s history needs recognition, as many in the West remain ignorant of it.
Taiwan has never been a part of China. Parts of Taiwan have been colonized by other nations including the Dutch, Spanish, fleeing Ming loyalists and pursuing Manchu rulers. Although each had a temporary claim to a part of Taiwan’s history, the only nation to control and rule Taiwan was Japan.
Japan received the Manchu section of Taiwan in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki; it did not get it from China. The Manchu Empire was not China, but rather China at that time was a part of the Manchu Empire. Japan set out to conquer and control the whole island.
Taiwan has appeared on the maps of many nations, and under many names, but designation on a map cannot be used as a qualification for possession. It is simply recognition of location.
A second and related cliche that is often tossed around in Western history is the erroneous idea of what constitutes China.
After the Mongols conquered the lands from Europe in the west to Korea in the east, and from Russia in the north to India in the south, they divided their empire into four khanates. China was part of the Khanate of the Great Khan, which included Korea and Tibet. While Chinese culture persevered in some areas, China itself was part of the Mongolian Empire.
During the Ming Dynasty, China broke free from Mongol rule and was separate for about 276 years before it was again swallowed up, this time by the expanding Manchu Empire.
Under the Manchu’s Qing Dynasty, China was ruled by the Manchus for about 267 years.
Hence arose the constant cry in China, but not Tibet, Xinjiang, or Mongolia: “Overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming.”
However, when such advocates made that cry, they did not want to return to Ming borders, but wanted also to acquire other Manchu territory in the bargain.
Although Chinese ethnicity and culture persisted in some areas under the Manchus, China was not a nation state.
This created a dilemma for the Republic of China’s (ROC) founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) in his many attempts to overthrow the Manchu rule. He and other advocates could not say that they wanted to restore China, because that would mean reverting to the borders of the Ming Dynasty. On the other hand, Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia also wanted to be free of Manchu rule.
Sun attempted to do it in the name of democracy, since democracy could cast a wide veiled cloak over Chinese territorial ambitions. He would die before the issue of Taiwan ever came into discussion of what constituted the “new China.”
While many people wanted to throw off the decaying Manchu rule, the question was how and in what way it would be replaced. Warlord general Yuan Shi-kai (袁世凱) set about trying to establish his own empire, but when he died the competing realm of warlords arose. China as “new China” never saw the democratic light of day.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) entered the picture and wanted to spread its power across the splintering Manchu Empire. Japan also decided to stake a claim by establishing Manchu rule with the last Manchu Chinese emperor Puyi (溥儀) in Manchuko.
Taiwan throughout this period remained part of colonial Japan. Taiwan was not part of China, and it eventually sought its own independence.
The claim that Taiwan was stolen from China as alleged in the Cairo Declaration is also false. The part of Taiwan that the Manchus controlled had been lost in war between the Manchus and Japan. It was no more stolen from them or China than the Manchus “stealing” China from the Ming, Tibet from the Tibetans, Mongolia from the Mongolians and Xinjiang from the Uighurs. Each has been the result of war.
This returns Taiwan’s narrative to the end of World War II, and the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco in which Japan, as the first nation to control the whole of Taiwan, surrendered sovereignty over the territory.
However, Japan also never named a recipient. That narrative is another story to be told.
For now, it is important to counter the misconception that Taiwan has always been a part of China. Taiwan is Taiwan, and China is China.
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
French police have confirmed that China’s overseas “police service stations” were behind cyberattacks against a Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in the European nation. This is another example of Beijing bullying Taiwanese organizations, as well as a show of contempt for other countries’ sovereignty and for international laws and norms. L’Encrier Chinois, a Chinese-language school that opened in 2005 in Paris, became the second Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in France in 2021. The school was targeted by at least three cyberattacks last year, which were reported to French police, who discovered that the attacks originated from China’s overseas police stations. Overseas
A photograph taken on Tuesday of Taoyuan City Government officials bowing to an East African baboon that was fatally shot the previous day provides an absurd snapshot to a sorry farce that led to an avoidable tragedy. The photograph showed the officials in front of a plastic container draped in a purple cloth on which a bouquet of flowers had been placed. It was a perfect example of a death ritual performed for the benefit of the living, not the dead. The gesture was worthless for any other reason than to distract from personal blame and political guilt. It contrasts with
A Taichung high-school student recently committed suicide after allegedly being bullied and abused by his school’s head of student affairs, military discipline office head, and other disciplinary and security officers. The Humanistic Education Foundation accused seven staff members at the school of picking on the boy after he was found bringing beer and cigarettes on campus in his first year at the school. They allegedly started to conduct body checks and searches of his bag, vilify him in public and pressure him into admitting wrongdoings committed by other students using verbal threats. They allegedly handed him two demerits and nine